Home > Uncategorized > That annoying off-beat drummer: In response to the 'heretic' Dr. Curry, more on my pig-headed libertarian open-mindness on climate issues

That annoying off-beat drummer: In response to the 'heretic' Dr. Curry, more on my pig-headed libertarian open-mindness on climate issues

I alerted readers in January to a blog post on libertarianism and the environment by Dr. Judith Curry, who heads the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and is known for her work on hurricanes, Arctic ice dynamics and other climate-related topics.

Scientific American  noted last October, in “Climate Heretic: Judith Curry Turns on Her Colleagues; Why can’t we have a civil conversation about climate?“, that:

over the past year or so she has become better known for something that annoys, even infuriates, many of her scientific colleagues. Curry has been engaging actively with the climate change skeptic community, largely by participating on outsider blogs such as Climate Audit, the Air Vent and the Black­board. Along the way, she has come to question how climatologists react to those who question the science, no matter how well established it is. Although many of the skeptics recycle critiques that have long since been disproved, others, she believes, bring up valid points—and by lumping the good with the bad, climate researchers not only miss out on a chance to improve their science, they come across to the public as haughty. “Yes, there’s a lot of crankology out there,” Curry says. “But not all of it is. If only 1 percent of it or 10 percent of what the skeptics say is right, that is time well spent because we have just been too encumbered by groupthink.”

While I recommend that interested readers review the whole thread, I copy below my comments and some related:

Judith, a climate scientist friend kindly gave me gave me a head’s up to your post.

I have been blogging and commenting for quite some time on environmental and climate issues from a libertarian perspective, and have also spent considerable time on trying both to help libertarians engage productively on environmental issues and to help leftist-environmentalists understand where libertarians are coming from.

Sadly, it’s largely a messy tale, reflecting how fights over government policy tend toward zero-sum games that blunt cooperation, the success that fossil fuel and other corporate interests have had in gaming the system, and how our tribal human nature leads many to abandon critical thinking in favor of choosing and reflexively defending sides and positions.

I have been highly critical of many libertarians in perpetuating unproductive discord, and have been the resident environmentalist pain-in-the-neck at the Ludwig von Mises Institute (for libertarian economics), which kindly hosts my blog. In particular, even while try to build bridges I have been critical of the Cato Institute, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Heartland Institute and MasterResource, which I view as being skewed by donations toward corporate agendas. There are of course some highly productive libertarians working on environmental and conservation matters; Terry Anderson and others at PERC (Properrty and Environment Research Center) have led the way on fisheries, water and other issues. (And then there are quasi-libertarians like Elinor Ostrom.)

Since you’ve expressed interest, allow me to load you up with a few links, to my exchanges with others such as John Quiggin, to my cajoling and castigating of libertarians, and to some of my views on climate/environment issues :

“Towards a productive libertarian approach on climate, energy and environmental issues ” http://bit.ly/ab3xJB

“John Quiggin plays Pin-the-tail-on-the-Donkey with “Libertarians and delusionism” ” http://bit.ly/8Zv5Y6

“A few more comments to John Quiggin on climate, libertarian principles and the enclosure of the commons ” http://bit.ly/eXaTKI

“A few more “delusional” thoughts to John Quiggin on partisan perceptions & libertarian opposition to collective action”http://bit.ly/f0FQ6K

“To John Quiggin: Reassuring climate “delusions” help us all to avoid engaging with “enemies” in exploring common ground ”http://bit.ly/eIFr4e

“The Cliff Notes version of my stilted enviro-fascist view of corporations and government ” http://bit.ly/9oBkC7

The Road Not Taken II: Austrians strive for a self-comforting irrelevancy on climate change, the greatest commons problem / rent-seeking game of our age http://bit.ly/14n6G0

For climate fever, take two open-air atom bombs & call me in the morning; “serious” libertarian suggestions from Kinsella & Reisman!?http://bit.ly/f2bRUr

Thanks, Dr. Reisman; or, How I Learned to Hate Enviros and Love Tantrums http://bit.ly/h4BI0B

“Escape from Reason: are Austrians conservatives, or neocons, on the environment? ” http://bit.ly/cJhov2

“The Road Not Taken V: Libertarian hatred of misanthropic “watermelons” and the productive love of aloof ad-homs”http://bit.ly/cqFlzh

OMG – those ecofascists hate statist corps, too, and even want to – GASP – end that oh-so-libertarian state grant of limited liability!http://bit.ly/gjJFnv

“Who are the misanthropes – “Malthusians” or those who hate them? Rob Bradley and others resist good faith engagement despite obvious institutional failures/absence of property rights ”http://bit.ly/hbONhd



On non-climate issues:

“Too Many or Too Few People? Does the market provide an answer? ” http://bit.ly/8zlecI



  • Tokyo Tom, thanks much for your input. your post originally went to moderation owing to the large number of links.

    • Dr. Curry, thanks for your indulgence on this; given the time differences (bedtime now!) and my schedule tomorrow, I thought throwing out a few links might be useful (though I may be mistaken!!).


    • If I can add one further thought before I head off to bed, it would be that a key prerequisite (as Ostrom points out) for tackling commons issues like climate change that involves many players and countries is the need for TRUST, an element that is sadly lacking (a resource that libertarian analysis indicates is destroyed by squabbles over government) .

      Bill Gates, Roger Pielke, Avatar & the Climate (of distrust); or, Can we move from a tribal questioning of motives to win-win policies? http://bit.ly/912Xkj

      On climate, myopic progressives console themselves by pointing out fossil $ behind science “skeptics”; but miss the same from left and ignore middle ground http://bit.ly/arSX5G



One wee error in your intro:
“Sadly, it’s largely a messy tale, reflecting how fights over government policy tend toward zeronegative-sum games that blunt cooperation”
There. All fixed! ;)

Tom is someone who has managed to separate the difference between science and policy.

  • I am honored that you visit me, as you must be very busy in the Year of the Wabbit.

    Thanks, Eli, but it means that Tom is someone for whom the thrills of tribal comabt do not offset the woes of being the odd man out, if not “the enemy”.


Michael, Climate Etc. has technical threads and discussion threads. This is a discussion thread. I usually monitor things quite closely on technical threads, which are pretty much troll free. There have been excellent discussions with very knowledgeable skeptics on many of the technical threads. If you look at the denizens list, there are many people spending time here with serious credentials and wide ranging and varying professional experiences. This is not a place where mindless people bother hanging out.

What am I hoping to accomplish on discussion threads? I raise thorny topics on the discussion threads, at the interface between science and society. People challenge their own prejudices by arguing with people having different opinions. Invariably I learn something when people suggest interesting things to read (on this thread, i have found some of Tokyo Tom’s links to be interesting.)

Assuming i have time in the next day or do (which is not a good assumption, I’m afraid), i will do a Part II on this thread, picking out some points/ideas to focus on in a follow on thread. Once we get the heat out of the way, we often generate some light over here.

bob, I would be interested in a part II to this subject, and it would be great if Tokyo Tom or Rich wanted to do this, provided the topic was about how to deal with global environmental issues and potential tragedy of the commons issues.

  • Not sure how you could reconcile the distance between these two. Yes, they are both Libertarians. But one sees the climate issue like so:

    Yeah, I deny the anthropogenic carbon dioxide global temperature forcing “hypothesis” (not that it deserves even the courtesy use of that term). It started out as an extraordinary – hell, preposterous – effort to account for a completely screwed interpretation of insufficient surface temperature data (gained initially, it appears, from Stevenson screen thermometers “sited next to a lamp” by way of all sorts of instrumental screw-ups related to urban heat island effect and similar artifact) thirty years ago, and has proceeded through those three decades not only without the development of convincing evidence supporting this brain-dead blunder but suffused with a continuing agglomeration of data-doctoring, book-cooking, code-jiggering, suppressio veri, suggestio falsi, peer-review-perverting, dissident-censoring, cork-screwing, back-stabbing, dirty-dealing, and bald-faced lying.

    and the other sees it a bit differently: [my emphasis added]

    On environmental issues in general and climate in particular, find me someone ranting about “Malthusians” or “environazis” or somesuch, and I’ll show you someone who doesn’t understand – or refuses to acknowledge – the difference between wealth-creating markets based on private property and/or voluntary interactions/contracts protected by law, and the tragedy of the commons situations that result when there are NO property rights (atmosphere, oceans) or when the pressures of developed markets swamp indigenous hunter-gather community rules.

    So what’s the deal? Here’s a perfect opportunity for skeptics to educate the supposedly market ignorant, but they refuse, preferring to focus instead on why concerned scientists must be wrong, how concerns by a broad swath of society about climate have become a matter of an irrational, deluded “religious” faith, or that those raising their concerns are “misanthropes” or worse.

    Some on the left likewise see libertarians and small-government conservatives as deluded.

    Both sides, it seems, prefer to fight – and to see themselves as right and the “others” as evil – rather than to reason

    While we should not regret that we cannot really constrain human nature very well, at least libertarian and others who profess to love markets ought to be paying attention to the inadequate institutional framework that is not only poisoning the political atmosphere, but posing risks to important globally and regionally shared open-access commons like the atmosphere and oceans (which are probably are in much more immediate and grave threat than the climate). And they also ought to recognize that there are important economic interests that profit from the current flawed institutional framework and have quite deliberately encouraged the current culture war.

    So, once again, ideological affiliations aside, there are people who look for ways to solve possible problems and people who look for reasons to ignore possible problems.

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